Something strange is in the air.

I wrote a post some weeks ago after a brief exchange with a young man in Whales named Rhys.  For those of  you who read Psora Psora Psora regularly, Rhys is numbered among the group of Skeptics in Great Britain who stand opposed to homeopathy, in that they consider it nothing more than placebo and feel that it offers “false hope” to any and all who try it.

All well and good–so far.

As I believe in choice when it comes to medicine and believe that, like politics and religion, one’s choice of medical treatment is not only a basic right, but also a right that should be upheld and respected above all things, I had a brief, and, I thought, respectful exchange of ideas with Rhys and ended up writing him an open letter via this blog.  (And let me note very clearly, when I say respectful, I mean that it was respectful on both sides of the conversation.  I found and find Rhys to be a highly intelligent and very thoughtful young man.  The fact that we disagree when it comes to our chosen medical modality in no way interferes with our ability to be polite and civil with one another.)

I wrote the letter because Rhys and I have something in common, aside from our passionate beliefs when it comes to health, healing and medicine.  (Although, to be clear, when it comes down to it, I believe that my true passion is for healing, while Rhys’ is for medicine, but I do not wish to put words in his mouth.  And I am sure he will clarify my statement if it is incorrect.)

Okay, I wrote the letter because Rhys suffers from Crohn’s Disease, something that I know about first hand, as I used to suffer from similar ailments.  So I feel a special attachment to Rhys and want to see him fully and completely healthy–whether it be as a result of an allopathic or homeopathy treatment.

Weeks passed and Rhys and I went on with our lives.  I wrote my little posts and he Tweeted his tweets.  Then, suddenly, just today, something strange happened.

I started to get comments, not about recent posts, but about my letter to Rhys.  Indeed, seven comments on the letter to Rhys came in between 10:45 and 12:15 this morning (my time–they are five hours ahead in Great Britain).  I found this very odd.  Why would all these people suddenly have something to say on the subject what I thought was a letter of encouragement to Rhys?  Then I went to my Twitter account and saw the answer–that little Twitterbug Rhys had just read the letter (I am hurt that he has stopped reading my Blog, but apparently he has better things to do) had posted ten Tweets to me just over two hours ago.  Just before the comments began.

In the time it has taken me to write this, three more comments have come in.  It is a very busy day indeed, especially since I posted the post to Rhys as long ago as I did.

In that the Flying Monkeys flew in together, I thought that I would print their comments together and then answer them altogether, since the messages all say the same things.  Flying Monkeys, it would appear, think alike.

I present them in chronological order.  First up is Zeno at 10:46 a.m.:  “…people deserve the right to choose the medicine that is right for them.”

Absolutely agree. Do you agree that such choice should be informed choice?

Next is Adam at 11:04:  You are overlooking one important point here: homeopathy doesn’t work.

There have been a great many randomised double-blind trials of homeopathy, and they have shown it to be no better than placebo.

It’s true that homeopathy only kills if people believe it will cure them of a life-threatening disease which could be cured by proper medical treatment. Probably most people are not daft enough to attempt homeopathic treatment for, say, a ruptured appendix. However, by encouraging people to believe in homeopathy, you increase the risks that someone might.

But although homeopathy is unlikely to kill, it is far more likely to be a waste of money and to offer false hope. You talk about economically depressed times. Quite right. All the more reason not to encourage people to waste what little money they have on quack remedies.

Next is Scott at 11:43:  “in these economically depressed times” it is especially wise to not waste money.

Homeopathy is the most outlandish fiction, a complete waste of time and resource. This is not the time we should be considering homeopathy, but stamping it out once and for all.

Next up is Pozorvlak at 11:46:  That’s incredibly patronising.

Poz is followed at 11:49 by the very angry Chunkylimey:  Considering your outright cowardice in addressing Rhys and then deleting his response here’s another one for you to delete knowing that you have been outed as a spineless hypocrite.

Your simpering snide nonsense where you claim sympathy and then patronize and insult shows you for just the kind of person you are.

You’ve outed yourself. The world is aware of you. You might not like the attention it brings. You’d have been wiser to shut up and keep your slimey insults to yourself.

Feel free to look me up too. Unlike you I’m not a coward.

(Note to Chunkylimey:  tone it down, Pumpkin.  No need for such language here.  And none will be tolerated in the future.  And as to deleting any posts from Rhys, to my knowledge I have never done so.  I quite enjoy reading what Rhys has to say and would have no trouble posting any comment from him.  If one got deleted, it was in error.  And one last note–how is it that I am a coward?  I have been teaching homeopathy for over twenty years now and have published endless articles and seven books on the subject.  Take a look at my Amazon Author’s Page.  That is hardly hiding.  Take a look at my web site.  Not hiding there, either.  And you have seen my blog.  Talk about hiding in plain view.  Final note:  let me remind you that it is the basic rule of this little Psoric blogspace that everyone has the right to choose when it comes to politics, religion and medicine.  I respect everyone who has thought these great issues out for themselves and come to conclusions that are right for them. If you cannot share this general and blanket aura of respect, then there is little point in sending comments.  They will be deleted.  This is my blog, Chunky, and it plays by my rules, whether you like it or not.)

Next comment was from MkeHyperCube at 12:15.  He wrote:  What you have there is a very good description of the Placebo effect, i.e. incurring the body’s natural ability heal itself. This is a powerful effect, and saying something “is a placebo” is not the same as saying it is not effective, since placebo is known to be remarkably effective.

However, and this is where I think Rhys’s point is an important one: there are some things which are amenable to the placebo effect – things which the body can cure for itself if you can only “light that spark” as you so eloquently put it. And there are some things that can not.

There are many people, and I am sure from your writings that you are probably not one of them, who mindlessly promote homoeopathy (and other placebo-inducing medications), as the cure for everything, including things which, sadly but demonstrably, can only be cured by allopathic i.e. conventional medicines. Hoping that you can choose to believe otherwise, does not change this basic fact. This means that there are in fact cases where people who could be getting some genuine healing or relief for something, are being persuaded to throw away the medicines they are prescribed and use homoeopathy instead. This is dangerous, as I’m sure you can see. That is why there are flying monkeys and why I think they will continue to fly.

And then there is this very long comment from Fibularis at 12:16:  Dear Vinton

Hmm. While recognising your perfect right to expressing your opinion in this little corner of the internet, and at the risk of being labelled a flying monkey, can I make a point?

I’m delighted to hear that your colitis has disappeared. I hope this is a permanent state of affairs, and I’m sure Rhys Morgan would second me in this regard.

I am not so sure that you can definitely attribute the homeopathic remedy as the causal mechanism of the cure. As human beings we are very much geared to finding patterns in the world, and very useful this has no doubt been throughout our evolutionary history. Unfortunately this ability often leads to recognition of ‘false positives’, i.e. finding a pattern where in fact there is none. We should and need to be a bit cleverer about application of remedies, and we certainly should not rely on anecdote (and, apologies if this sounds a bit rude – it’s not intended as such – your report regarding your colitis, no doubt very real to you, qualifies as anecdote). Randomised, controlled, double-blinded studies are a pain in the butt. They are expensive, labour-intensive and time-consuming, but (let me capitalise, BUT) they are very good at removing the noise, the all-too-human quirkiness and anecdotal non-evidence that clouds the issue of whether or not a particular treatment is having a real effect on a condition.

And the overwhelming body of evidence, and all meta-analysis, shows that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebo. So, irrespective of failures to explain the mechanisms of how homeopathy might work, there is no evidence base for its use.

Now please don’t take offence at this. Your colitis has disappeared and this happened when you were taking a homeopathic remedy. But n = 1 here, and even if you know of other people for whom this seemed to work too, the numbers involved are unlikely to be more than dozens. The RCTs involve hundreds of individuals. By your own admission you were seeking this remedy when you were desperate enough to swallow your pride and seek alternative help. It may be that the condition had reached a crisis and a natural improvement accompanied the homeopathy – this often happens with mainstream medicines as well as homeopathic remedies.

I hope you have a long and healthy life too.

(Note to Fib:  I published your full comment this time.  It was well written, but here’s another of my rules–this is my blog and I am the only one here who gets to go on and on.  Keep them short in the future.)

Now for the most recent comments.  At 12:46, Greg wrote:  Psoric – none of your comments alter the fact that there is no clinical evidence whatsoever – despite your original post – that homeopathy works. It is water. If water cures your ills then more power to you. You are being patronising (life experience blah blah) and spouting the usual arguments that woo-apologists come out with day after day after day and it does not change anything except help me realise that there is just one more person out there who needs help before thy rely on water to sure something which doe not actually get better by itself (that’s called “Regression to the Mean” – it’s one natural symptom that woo apologusts are forever using to show that homeopathy works).

I pity you. I truly, truly do.

Neelan – that’s what happens when you drink water and have a condition where the symptoms ebb and flow.

(Note to Greg:  Not the old “I pity you” ploy–you can and must do better in the future.  As to ebb and flow, a quarter of a century ebb is damned good in my experience.  Especially if it comes from just drinking water as you suggest.)
Finally at 1:01, someone seems to be coming to my defense.  Dr Nancy Malick writes:  Real is scientific homeopathy. It cures even when Conventional Allopathic Medicine (CAM) fails. Evidence-based modern homeopathy is a nano-medicine bringing big results for everyone
Okay, guys, here’s the deal.  I am fully aware that you Skeptics, or Flying Monkeys or whatever is the preferred designation really, really don’t think homeopathy works.  You really, really, really want it to go away.  Like I want Sarah Palin to go away.  But the reality is that I have every right to believe as I do.  I have every right to my life’s experiences and to the lessons that I have drawn from those experiences.  I can draw the conclusions that I like in terms of politics and religion and medicine and I may put those conclusions forth as I like, in accordance with the laws of free speech and the rules of conduct that WordPress imposes.
You are free to take issue with me or not.  You are free to read the blog or not.  And you are free to comment or not as you see fit.
But I am also free.  I am free to have an exchange of ideas with you or not as I see fit.  If you send comments that march in lockstep, that come minutes apart and seem to carry on a single conversation and, most important, that can be traced back to a series of Tweets from Rhys or anyone else, you will not be recognized here.
This is not a debate forum.  Nor is it a place in which you will be setting the agenda.  This is the place in which I set forth my opinions, about homeopathy and about anything else that comes into my head.  If you can deal with that reality, then you are most welcome, as are your ideas.
But if you (like the crazed bleach woman who commented to me on something that was being discussed on Rhys’s blog and that I knew nothing whatsoever about and had never supported or even commented on) come with an agenda just to shout down anyone who the gang mentality has selected for attack, then move on.  If you are going to comment to me, then you had better have read what I have to say and not be continuing some ongoing Twitterfest that you try to drag me into.  I am not interested in your ongoing snit with all things homeopathic.
I have been a part of the homeopathic community for thirty years now, guys.  You may only be hearing of me now, but that does not mean that you just dreamed me up.  I existed before you knew I existed.  And I am aware that there are those who think homeopathy is great and those who don’t.  Long ago I stopped debating the issue.  I believe that it is up to individuals to make up their own minds.
So you won’t get an argument from me.  It is, in my opinion, a serious waste of my time.  Were we able, one on one, to sit down and talk, we might have a great time debating.  But that is not the purpose of my blog.  To wrestle with you is to take time away from what I want to do with it.  And make no mistake.  I will do with it exactly what I like.
Thanks for taking the time to visit today.  Especially you, Fib.  You had a message that, while I disagreed with nearly every word you said, was well written, well thought out and kind-spirited.  You get a gold star.  Chunky gets nothing.